ALFRED, Maine — Convicted prostitute Alexis Wright’s business partner Mark Strong will testify in the trial of Donald Hill, the first of Wright’s alleged clients to take his case to trial.
Justice Roland Cole decided Monday that Strong will testify in Hill’s trial, which will begin with opening arguments this afternoon. Strong was granted immunity from the state, which Cole said he believed would also include any federal charges.
“I’m ordering him to testify over his claim of Fifth Amendment immunity,” Cole said.
After discussing Cole’s decision with his attorney, Susan Driscoll, of Bergen & Parkinson in Kennebunk, Strong said he would testify.
“I understand I’m being compelled to testify despite my Fifth Amendment rights and it’s my understanding anything I say cannot be used by the state or federal government, then I will testify,” Strong said.
Last week, Cole ordered that Wright can exercise her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if she is called to testify in Hill’s trial.
Whether Strong would testify is different than Wright’s testimony, Cole said, because Wright made a statement to investigators about her belief that she was working as a state operative. Prosecutors have said they did not believe the statement and Cole said Wright could be in danger of perjuring herself.
Strong made no such statements, the judge said.
Driscoll and Hill’s attorney, Gary Prolman, argued unsuccessfully on Monday that Strong could perjure himself by testifying, leading to potential charges related to extortion, wire fraud and IRS implications.
“I can’t even envision all of the ways he could be perjuring himself,” Driscoll said.
“The problem is once it’s done, it’s done,” Prolman said. “Once he does testify, the cat will be out of the bag, the horse will be out of the barn.”
Earlier on Monday, a jury was selected for Hill’s trial. The 53-year-old from Old Orchard Beach has pled not guilty to engaging a prostitute and has said he believed he and Wright were in a relationship. He faces a fine of $1,000 if convicted of the charge.
The 12-member jury, with an additional two alternates, is made up of 11 women and three men.
The 14 jurors were selected from an original potential juror pool of approximately 114 people who were asked to appear at York County Superior Court Monday morning.
Just after 10 a.m., 32 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom and were asked about any relationships with law enforcement officers, and whether they know any potential witnesses, including Wright and Strong.
The final jurors were then selected from that group.
Wright, 30, of Wells is currently serving a 10-month sentence in York County Jail after pleading guilty to 20 counts related to prostitution and tax-related offenses for running a prostitution operation out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio for more than a year and a half. Strong, 57, of Thomaston was found guilty of charges relating to promoting prostitution.
Strong was subpoenaed to testify and appeared at the courthouse Monday.
Also on the witness list for Hill’s trial are members of the Maine State Police and Kennebunk police Officer Audra Presby, all of whom testified at Strong’s trial.
Of the 68 people charged with paying Wright for sex, more than 58 have pled guilty or no contest.